Most earnings from the cocaine trade end up abroad

© Hollandse Hoogte / Roger Dohmen Fotografie
A total of 17 billion euros was earned within Dutch borders through illegal activities in 2021. Most of the earnings from the cocaine trade ended up in other countries. Illegal activities contributed 4.5 billion euros to the Dutch economy in 2021. The majority of the illegal activity in the Netherlands involved the cocaine trade and trafficking, which generated 10.7 billion euros in earnings. Nearly 90 percent of cocaine trade revenues flowed overseas to those who run the trade in drugs on Dutch territory. This is according to an estimate by Statistics Netherlands (CBS), outlined in the article 'The estimate of illegal activities in national accounts'.
Many activities related to international trade in drugs in the Netherlands are led by principals who are not resident in the Netherlands. As a result, drug production and trade may partly fall outside the Dutch economy, with Dutch residents simply providing services to principals who ar located elsewhere in the world. Only those services earnings were included in the gross domestic product (GDP) of the Dutch economy.

Earnings from the illegal economy, reporting year 2021
OmschrijvingWithin the Dutch economy (billion euros)Within national borders, outside the Dutch economy (billion euros)
Synthetic drugs1.02.2
Illegal tobacco0.10.0

Illegal economy constitutes 0.5 percent of Dutch economy

In addition to the trade in cocaine, CBS also estimates the production of and trade in synthetic drugs, cannabis, prostitution, and the illegal production of and trade in tobacco. In the case of cannabis and unlicensed prostitution, CBS measures not only activities that are part of the illegal economy, but also those that are tolerated and legal. The total value added to the economy by illegal activities was 4.5 billion euros in 2021, equivalent to 0.5 percent of GDP.

In 2021, more than 3 billion euros were earned from the trade and production of synthetic drugs within the borders of the Netherlands. Most of that ended up in other countries, as is the case with the trade in cocaine. Nearly one third of those earnings contributed to GDP.

Most earnings from cannabis remain within the Dutch economy. Earnings from prostitution and the illegal trade in tobacco remain fully part of the Dutch economy. In 2021, activities involving trade in cannabis, prostitution, and the illegal production of and trade in tobacco contributed 2.4 billion euros to the Dutch economy.